You know how it goes – sung to the tune of Amazing Grace. Australia has taken a two nil lead in the series against Sri Lanka and has thereby secured the series. The current series also sees Australia improve their standing on the ICC World Test Championship table (in case anyone cares) with New Zealand at least squaring and possibly winning their home series against South Africa.
The series thus far against Sri Lanka has had everything. Two come backs from behind by Australia. The Murali and Warne show as they cut and thrust their way in the race to 500 wickets and now the world record. Surely, Warne has exceeded all expectations. And the second Test was even more enthralling than the first, with the pendulum swinging on a daily basis. On each full day, both teams held sway at some stage in proceedings. Even at the start of the final day, the match was evenly poised, with Australia needing 3 wickets and Sri Lanka requiring 51 runs for victory.
The first Test was interesting but it was played in two parts – Sri Lanka dominated the first two days and it was all Australia from there. But there were some similarities. Sri Lanka had significant first innings leads on both occasions. In fact, when the lead is expressed as a percentage of Australia’s first innings score, the leads were 73% and 76% respectively. And in both tests, Australia was able to wipe off the first inning deficit with eight wickets still in hand.
Warne is the hero thus far. He has been the difference between Australia winning and losing. And credit to Damien Martyn – he came into the series under great external pressure and has performed admirably against the spin he has struggled against so often. His second innings in the 2nd Test (and 1st for that matter) was vital in setting winning targets.
And another big raspberry for the Symonds trial. I’m a big fan of him in the ODI arena but if Roy is selected for the third test ahead of The Kat, something is seriously wrong. Word is that the pitch has some bounce and that Tricky Ricky might play three seamers, in which case Katich will be selected based on previous comments.
And congratulations to Ponting who has won his first two tests as captain and in fact, his first series. Something that Border, Taylor and Waugh could not do. Even the great Bradman lost his first two tests as captain (on “sticky wickets”) before eventually winning the series.
And speaking of two-nil, England has gone two up and taken an unassailable lead in the Caribbean. Big Steve Harmison was in the thick of it again with 6-61 in the Windies first dig (this followed his 7-12 in the 1st Test). The hearts and hopes of the English would also have been warmed by a couple of class players on the comeback trail – Thorpe scored 90 in England’s first innings of 319 and Simon Jones took 5-75 in the Windies second innings. I suppose England is thinking to themselves something like “If only we were taking on the Aussies now, we’d kill ’em. That’s what.” Anyway, dream on – we have just over 12 months to wait and we’ll see what happens.
I mentioned earlier that New Zealand has gone one up by beating South Africa by nine wickets at Auckland. Not bad, considering that South Africa was 0-177 just before tea on the first day! Man of the match was Chris Martin, who took 11 wickets for the match and routed South Africa on the second day. Other stars were Scott Styris (170 from 220 balls), Chris Cairns (158 from 171 balls including 7 sixes) and Jacob Oram (90 from 134 balls, following his 1st Test century). It’s not a bad lower order batting when you consider that Cairns and Oram batted at seven and eight! Cairns also became the sixth man, and second New Zealander (Sir Dick being the other) to take 200 wickets and score 3000 test runs.
In the ODI series in Pakistan, India and Pakistan are locked at 2-2, with the decider to be played in Lahore later tonight.
The third Test between Australia and Sri Lanka starts later today (at 3:30 pm AEST).
(Unfortunately, it may have already started by the time you receive this as our office email is down.)